What Kind of Motorcycle Helmet Should I Wear?
Should you value the contents of your brain pan, and it might be a good idea if you at least gave that some consideration,a motorcycle helmet is the single most important piece of riding gear.
Helmets are the subject of passionate argument across the country, and the argument is generally couched in terms of personal freedom versus social responsibility.
Should riders be free to decide? I leave that to you all to debate, but one thing is not debatable in any way – helmets provide protection against the worst injuries likely to face a rider, those to the face, eyes and brain.
That said, choosing a helmet is both a practical concern and an expression of your personal style. There are a bewildering array of choices from manufacturers like, Shoei, Arai, Icon, Scorpion, Skid Lid, Thor and Bell, and you also have the option of finding vintage examples at your local Goodwill store or on Ebay.
Once you’ve actually decided to wear a helmet should your local laws require one, you have lots of styles to choose from. Here’s a breakdown of the types you may which to consider:
- Full-Face Helmets
- Open-Face Helmets
- Flip-Up Helmets
- Motocross Helmets
Each of the types listed above offer various advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, a full-face helmet offers the most protection. The down side? Full-face helmets can be horrifically uncomfortable in hot weather and make communicating with your fellow riders difficult.
The open-face helmet provides less protection, but does allow you to choose from a variety of eye protection and allows for the use of sunglasses. Should you decide to go this way, make sure your eye protection is shatterproof and provides good visibility and doesn’t impede your peripheral vision.
Half-helmets have the advantage of comfort, old-school style and are generally lighter in weight, but they don’t provide anything like the protection you get with open-face or full-face helmets. Wind noise can be a serious factor, so look for a half-helmet which offers some coverage for your ears.
Flip-up helmets may well provide the best of all worlds. They give you exceptional protection, allow for communication among riders with having to be removed and allow for eye protection when you want it and unimpeded vision when you don’t. One consideration? Make sure the design of this type of helmet is time-test and doesn’t generate enough wind noise to drive you insane on a long day riding at speed.
Well, the name should give you the general gist here. Motocross helmets are all about vision and keeping your teeth firmly planted in your jaw. Nuff said…
Now that you’ve arrived at what type of helmet you want, you’ll need to decide on the features you’ll want.
Safety is paramount, but right next in line comes comfort. You’re going to be wearing your helmet a lot, and it should be safe emphasize comfort or you’ll find yourself out shopping again and trying to re-sell your previous purchase.
A motorcycle helmet shell is usually made from a polycarbonate or fiberglass. Fiberglass motorcycle helmets provide the highest impact resistance and polycarbonate helmets are generally lighter weight but sturdy as well.
Any helmet shell should be cast in a single piece. This process and type of construction has proved most effective in spreading any impact across the entire surface of the helmet and preventing sharp objects from getting through to the liner.
Made from the kind of foam used for your takeout coffee cup, the liner’s role is to help absorb impacts and not pass them through to your brain. A helmets without this a safety liner is, well, not much of a helmet. The next layer of business in the liner, and the one closest to your head, it the comfort liner. In a best-case scenario, it should be breathable and absorbent. The comfort liner is often removable for washing, and that’s a good thing if you don’t want it to start smelling like a used gym sock after a few miles on the road.
Ventilation? You Want It
Do you like riding with a fogged up visor? Then you’ll need to consider this carefully. Can the ventilation system on your helmet be be opened and closed? Is there a way for incoming air to get out? How much noise will you trade for keeping a cool head? Just some things to consider…
Chin Strap Systems
You can opt for a double D-ring, quick release or lever systems. D-ring systems have the virtue of staying nice and tight, but they’re a pain to put on and remove. The quick-release types are the most common and probably the best all-round compromise. Lever systems break easily and that means your helmet is kaput, so go with option one or two.
This is one crazy array here. You can spend $700 for a Schuberth S1 ( bills itself as The Best Motorcycle Helmet in the World) or less than $30 for a DOT-approved model on the used market. As for this, you’ll have to let your budget- and your conscience – be your guide. Just make sure that your helmet is indeed DOT-approved and save yourself a $100 ticket from any overzealous police-type people you might encounter during your travels…